Monday, January 21, 2019

Titus 1:5-16 Biblical Eldership – God’s Antidote to Chaos in the Church

There is not much information about the missionary work on the island Crete in the Acts of the Apostles.  Acts 27 gives us a very brief indication of a visit to Crete, but no real information.   But from Paul’s letter to Titus we learn that Paul and Titus had been involved in missionary activity  here, which  had  led to church planting on the island of Crete. When Paul departed from there  he left  Titus behind to  continue the work, appointing elders (1:5), before coming back to him in Nicopolis[1] (3:12).   

Paul wanted Titus to complete the work of organising a biblical leadership there before coming back. And so, in this first chapter we read firstly about (i) 1:5-9 what sort of qualifications such an elder should have,  and in  (ii) 1:10-16 something about the necessity  of having  such an eldership in place. 

1.     Qualified elders  for  the church in Crete 

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you- 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

A careful reading of Titus 1 helps us to see that the church in Crete needed a biblical model of leadership, a credible role model  for the Cretan church and society.  Crete, like  the rest of the world needed urgent spiritual revival and reformation. Their self- assessment was less than flattering. This society had grown seriously backwards. “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."(v.12)  Imagine living in a society like that? I wonder what Paul would have said about Namibia? They were religious, influenced by Jewish mysticism(1:10), but  it was not a religion that  drove  men and women to a God honouring holiness (see  the assessment of v.16). 

At any rate – a society becomes that which it worships.  If a society worships idols, false gods, that worship will govern the culture of that society. If a society worships the true God, that worship will deeply influence and pervade its culture. [2]  Western culture with its  permissive values has  continued to flourish for a while on the residual moral principles taught by Christianity, on  what the Christian philosopher  Henry Van Til (nephew of Cornelius van Til) called,  “borrowed capital”[3].  But Western Christianity is down and out and a re-evangelisation and reformation of Europe is desperately needed. I want you to see God’s answer through the apostle Paul.

Paul’s answer to the reformation of a society, following the proclamation of the gospel begins with the church and within that church the appointment and presence  of   a biblical eldership. The Reformation of the church begins with its leadership. Believe me, the devil knows this and he will resist and oppose every effort to undermine this principle. I speak from experience, but more than that, I speak with biblical authority  on this matter.

Biblical eldership is needed  to  institute biblical reform  that leads to a process  whereby the church is continually reformed according to the Word of God. A healthy church is one that is led by a healthy eldership, producing healthy sheep. Such a church is  salt and light  to its community.  It affects its community and it exports   itself. That is  how the  16th century Reformation  exported itself. Look at the list of formidable men and elders that led the reforms in many churches!  Satan, who is never slow to respond has led many counter reformations and has  used false shepherds and elders  to sow destruction.  

What are the marks of a biblical elder?  Paul  gives Titus a list which is  very similar to that in 1 Timothy 3. We can summarise the  characteristics of a biblical elder  in three  categories 
(a) He knows God’s Word  well. He is a teacher of God’s word, promoting sound teaching, refuting false teaching.   He is a discipler. 
(b)  He provides   a good example in his domestic life 
(c) He displays sound personal character.

a.1:5,9:  Elders (note the plural!) maintain the standard of God’s Word through sound teaching and by refuting of false doctrine. Clearly it is not enough to see people converted.  People need to be discipled. That is what the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20 requires. Doing evangelistic ministry without discipleship is like giving birth to babies without feeding them. After people are led to Christ, and assembled into the church, the elders make sure that the flock of God is well taught and defended in the context of a corrupt culture. Everyday our people have questions on how to live a godly life in the context of many challenges. Elders must be prepared to give them biblically  sound answers. By their sound, diligent and perseverant teaching,  the life of the member  is changed  and thereby society is changed by the gospel,  one person at a time.    
The gift of the pastor elder is a substantial gift to the church. In Ephesians 4  Paul tells us that Jesus manifests His rule and His care over the church through  the gift of pastor- teachers.  They promote godliness in the church, helping people to grow in grace and maturity.  Thus elders create clarity out of doctrinal chaos. They produce mature disciples that are not  affected by every wind of doctrine blowing their way.  

b. 1: 6-8 Elders must  have  a sound   domestic  life:  Cretans in their  church and society (the two affect one another)    were  affected  by vices  listed in vv. 10-12lying, evil, lazy. So what is the solution? Appoint elders. Through them teach and disciple the church by means of   God’s Word… and through their own example that taught Word is strengthened.
This is what elders are to be like: they are to be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. Elders set the spiritual  standard in the church. And for this they need to practise what they preach in their own homes.   If they do not do this in their homes, how will they lead the household (the home) of God (cf. 1 Tim 3:5)?   Elders need to be (v.6) faithful husbands, characterized by marital and sexual fidelity. Elders need to be faithful parents,  whose children are respectful of them. “His children are believers” ( Greek: tekna exōn pista), which could also be translated as  faithful.” Whatever the case is, it's clear that they are children who are “not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination”. While they are under the roof of their father they are submissive and respectful.
Elders’ homes are models of peaceful, godly homes in a chaotic society.

c. 1:7,8 – the elders character: not arrogant, not quick tempered, not a drunkard, not  violent, not greedy for gain; hospitable, a lover of good, self- controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  The character of an elder is described in terms of what he is not (5 negatives) and what he is (6 positives).In these matters the elder is to be above reproach or blameless (second time this is mentioned).  What does it mean to be above reproach? It certainly cannot mean ‘sinlessly perfect’, for in that case we could have no elders.   It means to be a person of integrity with respect to these areas that Paul lists.  Here is a man who is not generally known as arrogant or quick tempered or a drunkard… etc. He is generally hospitable, he loves  what is good, he is self- controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  
Through this man’s behaviour and his household’s example, God is giving the church a living  example of His truth lived out.  Such people who live well are a gift of God’s grace to us. They teach us that this can be done.
Therefore, understanding this we need to pray for our elders. I can assure you that there is no elder who does not feel the heat of the spotlight of passages like I Timothy 3 or Titus 1.  

Now, just for perspective, the elders life is the normal life that God requires of every man  and woman and family in the church. It’s just that it has to start somewhere.  The goal is to get the entire congregation looking like this! So don’t just look at your elders. Look at yourself.  Every Christian family ought to be  a  model  and  an  agent of reformation for this broken world in which God has placed you as salt and light.  
Elders take the lead  in presenting  virtuous  character  in a chaotic society.  

2.      So, why are such Elders are needed for the church in Crete  and the world?

      The answer is contained in the  the text below ...

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

This might as well be a statement of our world and society. This is a reflection of Namibian society. How will our society be cured from its many ills?

1.     The primary answer is  the preaching of the Gospel. Thank God that the grace of God has appeared to this end (cf. 2:11)
2.     But it is also clear that  the  preaching of the gospel which leads to conversion is  not the end. It is the beginning.
3.     This  beginning leads to people  being assembled into a body called the church. In this church there are leaders and  role-models  called  elders. Elders lead the transformation and reformation process of the church and society.
4.     What are Elders for? Elders are for conveying God’s truth and confronting error. Look again at v.9.  He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”  Elders are God’s role models  of domestic and  personal  integrity. They lead by example.  They lead the charge against the rot and the chaos. They bring stability into the community.  

And so Paul wants Titus to  find  these kind of elders for  the Cretan church, and by doing so  he  wants a  seed for  true Reformation planted in the  the church. If that is  what elders are for, will you not pray for  your elders?  Realize how vital they are to the health of your congregation. A  congregation will not rise above the spiritual levels of the elders of this church, and  so pray that  our elders  (present and future)  remain a growing  people in Christ so that the church and society may truly benefit  from their godly example.  

[1] located in the western part of the modern state of Greece
[2] Christianity and Culture : Lectures given at the Pensacola Theological Institute, July 23-27, 2001, Lecture I: What is Culture? By Dr. John M. Frame Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy  Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
[3] From a paper given by me at  the  Sola 5 conference,  Livingstone,  ZAMBIA (2011), “ The Historical Outworking Of The Cultural Mandate Expounded And Illustrated In Western Civilization “

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Titus 1:1-4 "A Mind-blowing Introduction"

I want to spend a few weeks with you in this valuable little pastoral letter from Paul to Titus. In the course of the last two years I have   preached through   the first and second epistles to Timothy, and it is my desire to complete this little triad, which is sometimes known as the Pastoral Epistles.Titus is mentioned thirteen times in the NT. He is mentioned 9 times alone in 2 Corinthians[1], where Paul refers to him as “my brother Titus” (2:13) and “my partner and fellow worker” (8:23).

This letter was written between A.D. 62–64, during his ministry to the Macedonian churches (see 2 Cor. 8 &9), from either Corinth or Nicopolis (cf. 3:12). Most likely, Titus served with Paul on both the second and third missionary journeys. Titus, like Timothy (2 Tim. 1:2) had a special relationship with Paul.  Paul calls him ‘my true child (lit. my legitimate son) in a common faith’. In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul reports that Titus had gone to Dalmatia— a very beautiful part of modern Croatia.

Chronologically, the letter to Titus predates the second letter to Timothy. At this stage  we find Titus  on the island of Crete, where Paul left him behind  to strengthen the work (1:5).At the close of this letter we will see that Paul requests Titus to come to him  at Nicopolis (in Achaia, a province  in Greece. Artemas or Tychicus (3:12) will be sent to replace him and to take over the ministry there. Paul, the gifted apostle certainly was the spiritual director of the mission to the gentiles, using young men to provide temporary leadership in places where mature Christian leadership was lacking. Many of Paul’s young men were sent on short assignments. The reason is clear. Christian leadership in new and difficult places is daunting. The enemy’s resistance to the work of the gospel of God is fiercest where  Satan is been driven out. This work is akin to a soldier fighting on the front lines. To keep them from burning out they were withdrawn while others are sent in their place. It is good  for young men to be tested  in doing  spiritual battle before they are assigned to become  elders and gatekeepers  of  a church.
So Crete is where Titus is now.  Crete is the 5th largest island in the  Mediterranean Sea. It has a surface area of 8,336,  260 km’s  long, and  60 km’s  at its widest.

In Acts 27:7–9,12,13,21 we  read  that Paul had visited here  briefly  on his journey to Rome. He returned there for ministry and later left Titus to continue the work in Crete, just as he left Timothy at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), while he went on to Macedonia. The letter was probably   written in response to a letter or a report from Titus concerning matters in Crete.

With all that in mind we proceed to the opening words of this epistle. Paul often writes  in long sentences[2],  adding  clause upon clause, as he pours out his heart on paper. The first four verses are written like this: 1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour…”

We really need to get over the long sentence structure (forbidden in English writing) and look deeper at what is moving Paul here to speak in this way.  One is under the impression that this man is so overwhelmed by the thought of God and the ministry that he has been given by God, that he finds it hard to find a full-stop! It really is a mind-blowing opening statement when we take  cognizance of all that  Paul says here. Let’s take a look:

1.     Paul’s  credentials: A bond servant of God and an apostle of  Jesus Christ

“Paul a servant (doulos – bond servant ; lit. a permanent  slave) of God”.  The prophets of the Old Testament frequently used this description of themselves in relation to God.  In the OT  there were  2 kinds of slaves.  Slavery in Israel was a temporary institution. After a period of time, servants or slaves were to be freed. It might be at the end of their payment of a debt; it might be at the end of a seven-year Sabbath cycle; or it might be in the year of Jubilee.  Slaves were not to be permanently held in Israel.  But there was a second kind of slave, one who voluntarily and permanently committed himself to his master. He was called a bond-servant. Paul begins this letter by saying “I am a bond-servant of God.”  He is committed to the permanent service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“…and an apostle of Jesus Christ”.  The term apostle (apostolos) in itself is essentially unspectacular. It means messenger boy. A messenger boy, though he bears an important message has no an intrinsic authority. The authority that he bears is the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was called to this service in Acts 9.

As we reflect upon the credentials of Paul we are struck by his humility. Though he represents the King of kings, he takes no power and no glory to himself. I am a bond slave and a messenger boy. I say this as the Namibian church  finds herself  in the horrible grip of  many so called apostles, so called men and women  of God, so called prophets  who live for their own glory and pockets and who  live  to  boost their own egos and who  draw men and women after themselves,   but  portray none of the character credentials  portrayed hereby the apostle Paul.  Paul is a servant and he is an apostle. He is nothing in himself and yet he has the greatest message for the whole world. That is, I say, mind blowing. One of the great temptations for  preachers  is that  they  forget  these godly models,  Paul and John the Baptist, men  who  know their place and yet know that they have a message unequalled to any other.    

2.     Paul’s  Calling 

Here is what Paul’s  servant and apostolic ministry is all about : the proclamation of  saving faith, sanctifying truth  and   a sure  hope:  
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ ...for the sake of  the faith of  God’s elect and their  knowledge of the truth,  which accords  with  godliness,  in  hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began, and  at the proper time manifested in  His word through the preaching with which I have been  entrusted by the  commandment of God our Saviour.”

(i)               “...for the sake of  the faith of  God’s elect”. Paul serves God by being a messenger of the gospel of Jesus. Those who hear are the eklektōn Theou - the elect of God.  They are the ones who have been given the gift of faith by God and they are the ones who are able to express their faith. Let’s say this again differently. Paul’s apostolic preaching and the response to that preaching is not the source of his hearers’ faith. It is a means.  The source of his hearers’ faith is God. God's choice/ election of them is the root of their response to God in faith. Paul is simply the messenger boy, the vessel which God uses.  And so Paul's purpose in ministry is to preach the Word of God in the full assurance that there will be a harvest of those that are called by God to believe- to have faith in Him. But that is not where the sentence ends. That is not where Paul’s calling ends.  

(ii)             He goes on to say that he is a servant and an apostle for the knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.  Paul’s calling from God   includes not only the fact that He is used to call out the elect of God, but that they may grow in the knowledge  of God’s truth  as it is revealed  in the OT Scriptures, and finally by the appearing of Christ – the final Word of God (Hebr.  1:1-3). To put it simply, Paul is saying here, “my ministry, which is by way of this calling and commission which I have received, is aimed at producing a sanctifying knowledge in the people of God.”  Paul is not content to see mere converts for God. He wants to see converts transformed for godly living.  He wants to see evangelism plus discipleship. The gospel truth as it is in Jesus must   accord with godliness. This is not the last time in this book that Paul will insist upon the connection between sound theology and godly living.  And to what end? This is where the next phrase comes in.

(iii)           “…in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…”  The end of all things, our faith, and our sanctification is this: …the hope of eternal life. This is the ultimate motivation for Paul's work.  Eternal life! God’s people are saved for eternity.   This is not just wishful thinking. Notice how Paul roots this particular thought in the character of God… in hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began… . God never lies. What He promises He will do!  

So in his opening verses Paul describes  his servant ministry as an apostle in terms of bringing the full-orbed  message of the  work of salvation that begins with faith, and which continues  in living out that faith in this life  through  sanctified (or godly) living and which ends after our death  with eternal life… and thus his summary statement which follows: “and  at the proper time manifested in  His word through the preaching with which I have been  entrusted by the  commandment of God our Saviour.” A mind-blowing perspective!  

That, in a nutshell  is the work  of  Paul the servant apostle.  
And that is essentially the work of the ministry which we are called to imitate. The reason why  this ministry at Eastside Baptist  Church exists  is to
(i)  bring God’s elect to saving faith. We do this by faithful gospel centred preaching  
(ii)  help them to grow  in the knowledge of the truth which leads to godly living  while they live. We do this through expository preaching and discipleship classes 
(iii) keeping their eyes on the hope of their eternal reward. We preach and pray   in such a way that we can say with John Wesley that our people die well and in full assurance of the hope of heaven. Wesley knew that the secret to dying well was living well.[3] 

Are you praying for our common ministry to have this effect in our community? Are you praying for your preachers to be servant like messenger boys of the Word of Jesus? Are you praying that they will do their work fully in   preaching the gospel so that the elect may hear? And once they are converted that they may grow in the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness? Are you praying that we as Christ’s sheep will keep our eyes on our eternal hope and not just on our little, limited earthly retirement? Remember that life is a vapour, and soon you will appear before Jesus, and if you have trusted Him in this life you will be received into eternal dwellings.    

A closing Word

"To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour…”

Titus is a wonderful example of all that we have seen here. Having grown up in a gentile - pagan environment, he heard the gospel from Paul.  He now shares a common faith with Paul. He has received grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is one of God’s elect who truly hears, and therefore by faith in Jesus he is converted. Under faithful, diligent teaching and by the knowledge of the truth he grows in grace and godliness and very soon he becomes a useful co- worker with Paul.

The Christian life begins with grace and peace, but the Christian life ends with grace and peace, as well. Expect to see Titus in heaven.

[1] 2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6,13,14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18
[2] Ephesians 1:3-14 ,in the Greek is a famous   example.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Genesis 25:1-18 “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac“

This will be the last chapter in which the lives of Abraham and Isaac intersect. In fact, this is Abraham’s death chapter. From now on the focus will be on Isaac, the chosen son and the new head of the covenant family.  Though there are no great achievements to speak of concerning Isaac’s life, yet he provides a significant link in the history of redemption. The  Jews always referred  to their  God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (e.g.  Gen. 50:24; Ex.3:15; Acts 7:32)

Our text focuses on the continuity of the covenant promises of God to Abraham through Isaac which is then passed on to Jacob, and we shall see this already happening in 25:23. The great doctrine which is addressed in this chapter is the doctrine of divine election. I want to present this doctrine to you in fuller detail  my next sermon. Right now I want us to see how the covenant promise is passed on in the midst of challenging family relationships in which we   are told  that Abraham gave all he have  to Isaac.  (25:4)

Abraham took another wife (25:1-4).

Following the death of Sarah in Ch. 23, Abraham marries Keturah[1], whose name means ”wrapped in clouds of incense smoke"[2]. She bears him a further 6 sons. The prophecy concerning him becoming the father of many nations is beginning to take shape.    I want to draw your attention to one of the sons. One of his sons, whose name is mentioned in verses 2-4 is  Midian.  His offspring, the Midianites were destined to have  a great  influence  upon Israel.  Jacob’s sons because of jealousy will put their brother Joseph into a pit, from where he is rescued by Midianite traders, who in turn sell him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, in Egypt (37:36). Later we read that Moses sought refuge in Midian following his flight from Egypt (Ex.2:11ff).There he meets  and marries Zipporah the  daughter of Jethro, a priest of Midian (Ex.2:16-22),  and Moses will be greatly helped by his Midianite father-in-law, Jethro. Yet the Midianites will also exert bad influence over the Israelites with the Moabites (Numbers 22:1-41, 25:1-18, 31:1-54)  and through them Israel will start to worship false gods, bringing  God’s wrath down upon them. Gideon in Judges 6-8 will defeat the Midianite army  with an army of only 300 men  in a remarkable victory.

Isaac's unique place in God's plan (25:5,6)

With so many brothers, and not forgetting Ishmael  (7 in all),  we may well ask how things would be when Abraham dies  and  when the inheritance has to be  divided.  The Bible leaves us in no uncertainty:  Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living. And he sent them away from his son, Isaac, eastward to the land of the east.”
The Lord God who knows all things and who steers all history  for the sake of His own glory    had determined by His own good pleasure and forethought  that  Isaac, the son born to Abraham  and Sarah, his covenant wife,  was going to be the next son of the covenant, inheriting  the promises that God had made to Abraham. Remember the opening words of the New Testament? “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob . . .” (Matt. 1:1- 2). Isaac occupies a unique place there . There were 7 other male descendants of Abraham, but they are not mentioned there. The covenant promise concerning the  seed of the woman who will bruise the serpent’s head and accomplish our redemption shall come  through Isaac alone.

In order to deal with potential sibling rivalry,   the other sons are sent away to the east country (v.6). That is an interesting comment.  Adam and Eve after the fall are sent east of Eden (Gen.3:24).  Cain settled east of Eden following the murder of his brother (Gen. 4:16).  The people who planned and built the tower of Babel came from the east (Gen. 11:2).  Abraham, by the grace of God had been brought from Ur in the east to the promised land.    In  Gen.24 Abraham warned his servant  that under no circumstances was he to take Isaac back to the east – to  the place  from where  God had taken Abraham. Isaac belongs here in Canaan, the Promised Land. Eastward was generally understood to mean, “away from God”.

We thank God that today in this gospel age, God’s covenant blessings are being poured once again into the people of the east and the nations, although the gospel is also fiercely resisted by the people of the east, as is true for the all the nations  of  the world. It began back in the times of the birth of Jesus. Wise men from the East heard that a remarkable child was to be born and so they came to seek Him and to worship Him (Matt.2:1). 

So then, Abraham’s other sons are not sent away empty handed. They are given gifts (we may assume that these were generous gifts) while Abraham was still alive, but while  the  others are provided for, Isaac alone is the one who is to inherit the land and the covenant  promises. Matthew Henry writes:
“These sons of the concubines were sent into the country that lay east from Canaan, and their posterity were called the children of the east, famous for their numbers, Judges 6:5,33.  (i.e. the Midianites and the Amalekites) Their great increase was the fruit of the promise made to Abraham, that God would multiply his seed. God, in dispensing his blessings, does as Abraham did common blessings he gives to the children of this world, as to the sons of the bond-woman, but covenant-blessings he reserves for the heirs of promise. All that he has is theirs, for they are his Isaacs, from whom the rest shall be for ever separated”[3]
Common blessings are given by God to every member of the human race, but covenant blessings are given by God to those who are the heirs of the promise. A distinction is made by God between Isaac and his brothers from another mother.  

If it were up to Abraham he might have chosen Ishmael (Gen. 17:15-27) in the same way as Isaac would choose Esau over Jacob.  God chooses differently to us. He chooses Isaac over Ishmael. He chooses Jacob the younger over Esau the older. He chooses David, the last born of the sons of Jesse. And God chooses, Isaac and Jacob and David, not because they are better men than others. They are not. Read the history of the Bible and you will see this for yourself. No, for His own reasons and  for the sake of His own glory and because He loved them He chooses them.   
The way to translate that into NT  language  is this:  Have you received Grace from God  to  become a Christian  through believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Have you entered the new covenant   having confessed Him with your mouth and in baptism? Do you appreciate the wonder of the fact that God has given to every Christian  believer  an unimaginable inheritance, making us joint heirs with Christ?  If so then  we are the richest people in the world! And  the wonder is that none of us  has deserved this.No one merits it. No one earns it. It is his  unmerited  free gift to an undeserving  people. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4,5)

The death and burial of Abraham. (25:7-11)

Abraham lived 175 years. He was 75 years old when he came to Canaan and he lived here for 100 years. He had now lived in Canaan longer than anywhere else.

The words of verse 8 are striking:  “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man full of years, and was gathered to his people.”  The words speak of a man at peace.   It is friendship with God that allows a man to die full of years and satisfied.  Matthew Henry again says, “He was full of years, or full of life,  including all the conveniences and comforts of life. He did not live till the world was weary of him, but till he was weary of the world he had had enough of it, and desired no more. A good man, though he should not die old, dies full of days, satisfied with living here, and longing to live in a better place”. [4]

Abraham had the pleasure of seeing Isaac married and settled.  And now he could depart in peace. His life, in a sense was  complete. God gives  a believer that contentment that enables them  to enjoy life, but also to be ready to leave it when God calls. The things that made Abraham's life rich was not his possessions, and it wasn't the great age which God had granted him, but rather it was his hope to enter into that heavenly Canaan, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city whose founder and builder was God, whose friendship he had enjoyed in this life. Abraham was gathered to his people. The doctrine of the immortal soul, and of the afterlife comes through here very strongly. Abraham did not cease to be.  He was not annihilated.   Abraham was gathered to his people. He was gathered to Adam and Eve and Seth and Enoch, and to Noah and to Sarah… He was gathered to his people. Which people will you be gathered to? Will you be gathered to the children of promise, or will you be gathered to the children of this world? It depends upon with whom we find our ultimate fellowship in this life doesn't it?

The Methodist, Adam Clarke wrote a good eulogy of Abraham: “Above all as a man of God, he stands unrivaled; so that under the most exalted and perfect of all dispensations, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is proposed and recommended as the model and pattern according to which the faith, obedience, and perseverance of the followers of the Messiah are to be formed. Reader, while you admire the man, do not forget the God that made him so great, so good, and so useful. Even Abraham had nothing but what he had received; from the free unmerited mercy of God proceeded all his excellences; but he was a worker together with God, and therefore did not receive the grace of God in vain. Go thou, believe, love, obey, and persevere in like manner.”[5]

In verse 9 we read that Isaac and Ishmael share in the responsibility of burying their father. They buried him  in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, where Sarah  was buried (v.9)... but the final  fact remains  that God blessed Abraham’s son  Isaac.

V.11  After the  funeral is  over God  confirms the covenant blessings upon Isaac. Isaac goes and lives at Beer-lahai-roi where God had first taken care of Hagar and Ishmael, and the  place where Isaac first  saw and met  Rebekah, his wife.  

At the close of our  text  Ishmael and his offspring  receive  a brief mentioning.  He became rich and famous. He had twelve sons who were princes and nations (v.16). Today they  are the various Arabic people of the Middle East.  They lived on the fringes of the Promised Land. They have been touched  by the word of God. They believe in the  scriptures, but   it is one thing to be near the covenant of grace; it is another thing to be in the covenant of grace To this day  they remain  strangers to the covenant and its promises. Many that are strangers to the covenants of promise are blessed with outward prosperity for the sake of their godly ancestors. Wealth and riches shall be in their house.”[6] But the main  question is this. Are you, like Isaac, a son of the covenant, having entered the narrow gate through  Christ?  For it is in  Christ  that we, like Isaac inherit all  the covenant promises ...  the resurrection of our bodies, eternal life  in  heaven, our heavenly Canaan, for God has promised  us all   these thing in Christ, the Mediator of a better covenant.   

[1] There is  disagreement among commentators as  to whether   Abraham  had taken  Keturah as  a concubine  whilst  he was married to Sarah  ( In 1 Chronicles  1:32 she is mentioned  as his concubine)
[4] Matthew Henry :